Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Little Luxuries

I am the fifth of seven children and although my dad is an educated professional, while I was growing up, money was a rare commodity. My mother was a tightwad extraordinaire and my dad, to this day, is a conservationist of such extremes, members of Green Peace would tell him to lighten up. So even though I live with my four kids at a more comfortable level than I did growing up, there are certain things that will always seem like indulgent luxuries to me no matter how fabulously rich I get, (unlikely as that may be).

Caution: List Ahead!

Wonder Bread: My mom subscribed to the "the whiter the bread, the sooner you're dead" philosophy of sandwich making and she bought the long, skinny store brand loaves by the half dozen which she would throw in the freezer. So our sandwiches would consist of misshapen, half frozen/half soggy slices of bread with a single leaf of lettuce and a single slice of Buddig meat so thin you could read your book through it. Now, I feel like a naughty child sneaking cookies whenever I buy Wonder Bread and eat it fresh, never frozen, with peanut butter and jelly spread all the way to the edges!

Full-Sized Candy Bars: I think I was in highschool before I ever ate a full-sized candy bar by myself. These were such rare treats when I was growing up, if anyone in the family ever got one, that person was expected to put it in the freezer, then when it was sufficiently hard, we would slice it and dole out the frozen shards all around. Even now, eating candy bars in an unfrozen state seems like an incredibly indulgent and selfish thing to do.

New Underwear: Not only am I the fifth child, but I'm also the fourth girl with a sister only 17 months older than me. Needless to say, my entire wardrobe consisted of hand-me-downs including personal wear. I remember when I was eleven and I finally earned some babysitting money, I jumped on my bike and rode to the nearest Ross Dress For Less and bought myself a package of brand new underwear. Some things are just not meant to be shared.

French Fries: Eating at McDonald's was a momentus event in my childhood reserved only for celebrating achievements just shy of winning a Pulizter. Even on road trips my mom would pack fried hot dogs and sliced omlets wrapped in aluminum foil so we wouldn't have to buy food along the way. And when, on these momentus occasions, we did go to McDonald's, all we ate were those flat burgers the size of coasters, no drinks, no fries. It baffles me that my children do not like fries. I think I'm spoiling them terribly just for offering them.

Buying things not on sale: My mom was a price comparing, sale shopping, coupon clipping expert. She knew which stores had which items for the cheapest, then she would wait for it to go on sale, then pull out her categorized accordion file box of saved coupons before making a purchase. At clothing stores it was even worse. It had to be on the clearance rack that was at least 50% off. Now, I can't buy things that are not on sale without looking over my shoulder and making sure my mom isn't looking (even though she lives a half an ocean away). I feel that if she were in a grave, she'd be rolling in it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Summer Boredom

Aren't you happy that school is out? Now that it's summer vacation I just want to make a few things clear. Whether you like it or not we are not spending our summer vacation sitting around watching t.v., playing the wii and wasting precious sunshine. there will be no fighting or attitude given. We have approximately 77 days of (semi) warm and sunshine. Every night you should be collapsing into bed after a day spent of outdoor exercise, running through the sprinkler, and extreme gardening. Your going to be productive if it kills me.

Your summer reading list will grow and grow as you lay on your blanket in the yard and soak up every second of sunlight. You will expand your mind by reading all the classics and the complete American history literary canon. If you are unsure what to read ask me and I will recommend something for you. You had better take this seriously, I don't want to look back on this summer and shake my head at all the wasted time. No laughing or giggling unless the situation calls for it i.e. you are watching Shakespeare at the park. You will look back and remember this summer as one of the most productive periods in your life; the summer you got a six pack (abs not beer) or the summer you developed a love for classic literature, or the summer you climbed the most mountains, or harvested the most fruits and vegetables and canned them.

I would suggest you make yourself a schedule in 30 minute increments and stick to it as if your life depended on it. The only time you should be sitting at the computer is when you are entering data pertaining to your summer productivity which afterwards at the conclusion of the summer you will be presenting to me in the form of a complex pie graph. The only time you should be watching the television is on days when it is snowing or hailing or there is a tornado or tsunami warning.. wait scratch that last one we live far enough from the coast .. get outside now.

Your get to see your friends all year at school, your friends this summer will be your books, each other, and me. Your not going to run off and play like a bunch of stray dogs. There will be order here. I'm not going to let this summer get shot to hell with a bunch of nonsense. Now get busy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Remember the hype, the warnings, the fear over the impending disaster that would be caused by the date changing to 2000? Everything from elevators to cars to heart pace-makers were supposedly going to rise up and start taking over the world like a bad remake of "I Robot". The world waited with bated breath as the the clock ticked with relentless evenness toward the end of the universe as we knew it. 11:58, 11:59...12:00!


nothing at all.

So life went on with nary a bump and our alarm clocks and refrigerators remained docile and subservient as ever. Well, the Y2K disaster did happen, it just happened a decade late, or a decade early depending on how you look at it. You remember the designation of Generation X followed by Generation Y and we assumed that the next would most likely be Generation Z? Well, this alphabetically rebellious Generation has been designated as, The Millennials. cue scary music.

Millennials have been designated as those who are currently in their 20s, and those of us, like my dear friend Ambie, who have a Millennial for a child or sibling (or both, in her case) know that this really is a disaster of epic proportions. JWT, a New York based advertising agency, has provided us with a profile of the newest members of the workforce, and the results are, well, predictable to those who are intimately acquainted with the joyful frustration of trying to guide intelligent, energetic young people away from mistakes of such incredible stupidness that you're wondering if all the intelligence they have exihibited thus far might have been a fluke. Like a monkey randomly typing at a computer and producing the complete works of Shakespeare.

As JWT reports, Millennials, compared with previous generations, "place a higher value on work-life balance, expect their employers to adapt to them and are more likely to rank fun and stimulation as one of their top five ideal job requirements." They also, "like lots of positive strokes, are chronic multi-taskers and can be outspoken to a fault. They know when to speak up; they just don't always know when to shut up."

Sound familiar? It does when you consider the kind of life Millenials have had. Their formative years were mainly the 90's when the economy was flying high with the dotcom boom. They've always had technology at their fingertips. They've never known a time without personal computers, cellphones, or satellite TV. They think that "hard times" are when you don't have unlimited texting on your phone. These young people were raised with the "everybody wins" philosophy where everyone had a seat in musical chairs and everyone got a trophy in little league. They feel absolutely wonderful and confident for no reason at all.

To be fair, they do have some strengths that their older counterparts struggle with at times. Millennials think "outside the box" to the extent that they're almost unaware that there ever was a box. They are creative thinkers and high risk takers. They don't mind bringing their work home allowing clients and co-workers to call them at any time. But while they may usher in the next era of great human advancement, it will be a harrowing ride for those of us that have to grit our teeth and smile and say, "Sure! That idea for starting a reptile eco-tour in Brazil sounds great! Here's the $3000 from your college fund you wanted."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Can you Spare Some Change Brother ?

Lately I have noticed how the Alaskan homeless are harder and harder to identify as homeless. Thank goodness they hold those homemade signs they make on cardboard that say " homeless please help" because I never would be able to tell otherwise. Why? well lets see maybe it's the two hundred dollar North Face jackets they are wearing or the Cabelas hiking boots and the Carhart coveralls they have on. They hold their coffee and stand on the corners together in a group. They are laughing and smiling; their teeth look straight.When traffic stops the expressions change to seriousness as they gaze intently into the faces of those who will not look back. Occasionally a kindhearted middle aged woman in a beater will give some change or a couple of bucks.

At 5pm a shift change seems to occur on the corner and the the morning crew takes leave sometimes climbing on a bus, sometimes climbing into a car. Life is good. I study the scene on the way home from school almost daily. My kids are whining for a McDonald's soft cone. I don't have a dollar, not one dollar. I never do. My paychecks go directly into the bank account and noon duty's don't get tips. The Alaskan homeless do pretty good, they look healthy and happy. Ten or so years ago there was a homeless guy named Floyd. Floyd waved and smiled .. and held his sign, but Floyd went commercial and pretty soon the local newspaper claimed that Floyd had hired a manager. Chubby little Floyd was sporting a new Rolex and his new sign said "direct deposit accepted".Other creative signs seen include "looking for rich woman to support me" and "not available for work" and "no food accepted".

I suppose there is something exhilarating about having no possessions to maintain, no people to be responsible for, and to live for the day alone. It must be nice to get free meals,housing and to be able to spend all of your money on whatever you want. Hey Floyd, can you spare a dollar ?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Gone are the Days of Goliath

There was a time when men strove and fought for the favor of a lady. They won the hearts of said ladies by exhibiting their prowess in providing shelter, hunting food and vanquishing evil foes. They were strong and swift, gallant and noble. Oh, how times change. Since food and shelter are now obtained by earning enough money to pay someone else to get it for you, the scrawny and sickly are equally able to provide these as the buff. This has allowed men to explore the softer side of their talents, hence, we have "American Idol".

Far from the biblical face off of David and Goliath, we have instead the clash of the Davids and I doubt either one has heaved a stone or any other projectile at anyone, although I suppose that would make "Idol" much more interesting. No, to win the hearts of their adoring, training bra-clad fans, they show that they have soul and sensitivity and "a voice like melted chocolate". With these Davids, the Philistines would definitely have prevailed.

Recall the dilemma faced by Penelope of "The Odyssey" when she faced a house full of suitors. She challenged them to string a giant bow and shoot an arrow through 12 axe handles lined up. The one that could do it would be her husband. Imagine instead if she'd gathered the village and had a sing off and let her neighbors vote on the winner. Homer would've died in shame and misery instead of all of us, centuries later, having to write highschool papers about his works.

Then there was Jacob in the Bible who showed his future father-in-law that he was dedicated and hard working by laboring 14 years before marrying his beloved. I doubt Laban, or Rachel for that matter, would have been very impressed if he had said, "Nah, but listen to how I can sing!" Then where would that have left the house of Israel?

But do not fret that the epic battles of today do not involve muscular, grunting, and sweating men. At least these modern heros are less likely to be interested in marrying your daughters.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


My own dear mother reminded me of a game Ambie and I used to play that we really enojoyed and having all you readers just widens the possibilities. *wicked chuckle* For those of you that don't read all the comments (for shame) here is a recap. You take a person's initials and you come up with an acronym that describes him or her. (For those of you that slept through fifth grade English, an acronym is a group of letters that each stand for a word, like SCUBA - self-contained underwater breathing apparatus)

The ones I came up with for Ambie are All-Estrogen Parent (she's having her seventh girl), and Anything Except Punctual, and An Erupting Pie-hole.

We shall attempt to acronyse all our faithful commenters, and try not to offend you so that you never come back. There are some of you whose middle initials we don't know so if you don't see yourself on the list, drop us a comment and we shall by all means add you.

So here we go:

imme: you are Enlightened Woman Employee, or Elated When Earning, or Eager With Expectations

mama mia (you have really tough initials, BTW): you are Mormon Jello Bride, or May Journey Beachward, or Monthly Joyous Bookclubber

Tim: you are Tortured Money Winner, or Tells Many Witticisms, or Too Many Worries

Kristine (your middle name is Michelle, right?): Knowledgeable Math Nerd, or Kind to Mexican Neophytes

Heather: you are Heartfelt Dale Hater (as in Earnhardt Jr), or Healthy Diet Hater, or House-Deal Hell

grandma faith: you are Full of Motherly Wisdom, or Fair-Minded Woman, or Forgetful, May Wander

Aimee: you are Ankles R Sprained or Aldi's Really Stupid

Jillee: you are Just Sawed-off Boobs, or Just So Blonde


Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Noon Duty

I am a noon duty. Why? because the office ladies asked me to do it and I feel guilty saying no to anything that helps support the kids school. Oh and because the office ladies are so nice and soft spoken and pleasant. If they asked me to rob a bank I might consider that too.

I love to see my kids during the school day and they feel so famous when I am there. The other kids say things like " hey is that your mom "? and they just beam with pride. I try to act cool so that the kids won't say things like " your mom is so mean"! I walk around the lunch room and try to keep the kids from having food fights or eating each other. Sometimes I tease the kids which is great fun... for me. I might tease the kids about their haircuts or bed head. There are so many funny looking kids. If you don't bother to brush your kids hair in the morning, at least you are providing people like me with a good laugh. I appreciate that.

Other things I have observed are:
A kid trying to saw another kids head off with a fake saw for sawing snow
A kid stuffing snow down another kids coat and shirt
Kids throwing away entire lunches including whole sandwiches and whole bags of chips unopened ( I bet you think your kid would never do that)
whole rows of 5th and 6th grade girls who think eating anything is gross and nerdy
A kid trying to make another kid eat gravel
A kid trying to make another kid eat yellow snow
Kids playing catch with a dead bird they found
First graders drinking coke for lunch
6th graders eating baby food out of a jar
girls that cry ( this is everyday and every grade) because their best friend said they weren't friends anymore
Kids that raise their hands at lunch to tell me that someone won't stop looking at them
Kids that raise their hands at lunch to tell me that their mom just had a doctors appointment because they need medication for depression

I do try to encourage the kids to take their whole sandwich home so that someone else can eat it but the expression that they give me says that they will throw it away later.


Al Versus The Volcano

When you move to a new place you can't help but learn a lot of new things about it from its history, flora and fauna to its lingo and dialect. One of those things you learn is new weather terms. When I lived in Alaska I learned the terms "break up" and "termination dust". (and no, it has nothing to do with ill-fated romantic relationships or magical powders for getting rid of lazy employees.) In Nebraska I learned about "supercells" and "downbursts" to the extent that you don't want to be present when they occur. Well, Hawaii is no exception. I am currently getting intimately acquainted with a nasty little phenomenon called VOG - volcanic fog. I know, it sounds like a stinky perfume and so it is.

As I write, Kilauea is belching forth volumes of ash laden clouds that settle over the islands when the trade winds die down, making paradise look more like downtown LA. The air chokes you, visibility is miniscule, eyes water, noses itch, allergies and asthma flare. My question is: Where is Al Gore when you need him??

C'mon Al! Take on that air polluting, environment destroying, plant killing, baby seal slaughtering, carbon emitting volcano! (It probably drives an SUV - perhaps the LAV4?)

there is no


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It was a cold day in Anchorage....

Yes, folks, believe it or not, exactly 31 years ago today, my dear friend, Ambie graced the world with her presence. (And the world is still trying to recover.) We have been friends for almost 5 years now and we've had some serious doozies for memories. I've learned that whenever Ambie calls and says, "I have something to tell you..." it's best just to hang up and try to forget that I ever knew her. But, slow learner that I am, I have yet to do that. So here, my dear friend, is a list (I love lists, can you tell?) of some of my favorite memories with you:

The time we took our kids to Nordstrom and Maya pulled all the tags off the dolls and I pretended she was your daughter. (My kids look more like Ambie and her kids look more like me)

The time we ran down the fat guy with a cart at Costco and almost gave him a heart attack.

The year we made 17 pies for Thanksgiving, sewed 3 formals for Christmas and 5 sun-dresses for Easter. (and when I say "we sewed" I mean "I sewed")

The time we went camping at the Kenai river - and I swore never to camp with you again.

The year we went to Girls' Camp and it took both Heather and me to get you off the ground on the air mattress, then we discussed the movie "Shallow Hal". (I'm still laughing about that, sorry.)

That wedding that I ditched - and you didn't. yeah, that one.

Two words: Road Show (AHHHHHHH!!!!!!)

But more than any specific memory - is all the time we spent together shopping at midnight at Walmart and Fred Meyer, the cooking your husband did for us and taught me, and the haircuts, all the times we were so immature and ornery at church that people hated us, having your teenagers invade my house every Sunday to play with my kids and cook and eat, the hours and hours we spent talking in a running car in our driveways, people-watching at the State Fair and playing "guess their income", I could go on and on.

So enjoy your birthday, friend. Because even though I think Jessica is prettier and Alex is a better cook and Natalie is nicer and your mom does more service for others - you are the one I would choose for a best friend everyday and twice on Sunday.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Nerds Unite!

Remember that kid in Junior High? The skinny one with glasses who always had a sci-fi paperback in front of his face. The one everyone picked to have on their science lab team but no one picked for their kickball team. Then when you all got to highschool, he never really learned how to shave his Adam's apple and all the girls he asked to the prom said no, even the 300 pound, cross-eyed one. Well, he's got a new hobby. Politics. AP reporter Seth Borenstein reports that the new craze amongst hard-core scientists is to run for office. Apparently the pale people are sick of the popular people using them to get good grades just like in high school and now they want to take over the decision making. It's like a low-budget remake of "Revenge of the Nerds" - a horror film.

I'm not sure people will be earger to elect a 5 ft 3 in, 115 lb guy who can't get through a speech without his inhaler but Congress could definitely use a lift in the average IQ of its members (the overwhelming majority of whom are lawyers). This is what I predict will happen if more and more scientists are elected to public office:

Our currency will be changed to read, "In Newton We Trust".

You will hear a lot more accusations on CSPAN of someone being a "dark lord of the Sith".

Foreign policy strategy will be determined by a big game of "Risk".

Convicted criminals won't go to prison, but become "volunteers" to the new Department of Advanced Scientific and Medical Research.

The term filibuster will be changed to PI.

Capitol hill will be referred to as F(x)=-x^2. (think back to Algebra 2. think! think!)

Votes in Congress would now be able to be coerced by wedgies and swirlies.

The Speaker of the House will be referred to as "The Dungeon Master".

Congress will be endorsed by Pearle Vision and Acuvue.

There will be an official government declaration that SuperMan could so totally kick the Green Lantern's butt.

So if we are indeed going to have an "Extreme Make-Over Politics Edition", we'll have to get back into flatter-the-nerds-so-we-can-copy-off-their-papers mode and get ready for a lot of Star Trek analogies on CNN. At least, for these newly elected officials, there's no government equivalent to the senior prom.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sorry Ma !

Tomorrow is mothers day and I want to take this chance to publicly apologize for all of the rotten things I did to my mom growing up. Although this may diminish in your minds the idea that I am nearly perfect, it simply must be done.

Mom, I'm sorry for all the times I cut my hair, and Jessica's... at the scalp. I'm sorry we ( I am not taking all of the blame for this) used all of your perfume and cleaning products and medicine and ice cream to make potions. I'm sorry for the time we tried to give the cat a bath and it didn't work out and you found her a week later with matted soap on her and you had to put her to sleep.. and that we cried and thought you were a mean mom.

I'm sorry that we played catch with the bunny rabbit that belonged to the school library and that it was dead by the next morning and that we just thought it was cold and so we put it by the heater until it started to stink. I'm sorry that I broke juice glasses on purpose because I liked the shattering noise they made.. on the garage floor .. and wall... and under your tires. I am sorry for giving Jessica wedgies and pulling Jillee's pants down and running and also for putting Jillee in the closet and locking it .. so many times. I'm sorry we climbed the tree and pried open your window to search for candy. I am also sorry for throwing that big party when you went to Mexico but at least my friends and I left it cleaner than it was.
Love, Ambie
there is no


Congratulations, you gave birth without drugs. WIMP!

It's inevitable. When a woman is narrating her childbirth story the issue will arise. Did she or did she not have an epidural? Often, those that opted out of the pain-free version declare this with self-importance - that somehow they did it "better" than the person who "gave in" and got the drugs.

Personally, I've done it both ways and I'm here to tell the world that getting an epidural is worse than natural childbirth. Seriously.

When I was pregnant for the first time, knowing that I have a low tolerance for pain, I decided from the start that I would get an epidural. When the time came and I was sufficiently dilated, I was excited for the magic that would take the labor pains away. That's when the anesthesiologist snuck behind my back and pulled out a needle the size of a fencer's foil but about twice as thick. I was already preoccupied with contractions that were 90 seconds apart, so this just seemed like adding injury to injury. She thrust home the sword-like needle with the skill of a triumphant jouster. Now I know how bugs feel when they get pinned to a display board.

When I was pregnant with my second child, my strategy was to ask for an epidural when the labor pain got worse than the pain of getting an epidural. You know what? It never happened. I've chickened out of an epidural every time after that. So I salute all you mothers who had the courage to stare, unflinchingly, down the length of the needle of horror and said, "yes". "Yes, for the sake of my husband's hand and all those within earshot of my screams, I will take the epidural." You are truly amazing.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Captain DumberPants Goes to School

"Me fail English? That's unpossible!"
Leave it to the geniuses at the Maryland Department of Education to find new and creative ways to keep students stupid by calling it smart. First it was "Everyday Math" where you never actually learned anything about numbers or how to manipulate them (but you did learn about other countries and cultures), then it was "Disaster Spelling" where students misspelling is not corrected as long as it is phonetic. Now, from the supporters of "ebonics", comes the latest educational fad for TAL - Teachers Against Learning - comic books. No, sad to say, I'm not kidding. I wish I were.

More than 1000 classrooms around the country are now using comic books as a part of their curriculum. Using the likes of Garfield, Donald Duck, and Mickey Mouse, this curriculum is hoping to increase reading and writing skills by spiking students' interest. Hoping students will read better by putting more pictures and less words on a page is like planting a rock and hoping a tree grows. Teachers say they love the comics because they get the kids excited for reading lessons - preferring enthusiasm at the expense of substance. I could get my children really excited about dinner if I served ice cream but it doesn't mean it's good for them, just easier for me.

Hopefully it goes without saying that books that use pictures as the main tool for plot and characterization and only use written words for dialogue and minimal setting will fall far short of written narrative in reading development. Pictures rob students of the skill to interpret language into complex ideas. Pictures also limit the beauty of descriptive language in matters of emotion and intent. When you read about an event, the words can transport you like you are "right there" experiencing it. Pictures always put the viewer in the audience.

This comic book curriculum is just a part of a larger educational deficiency that occurs when teachers and administrators "dumb down" the work to fit the students instead of pushing the students to achieve higher standards. Michael Bitz, one of the founders of the comic book program, said it best, "There is a growing movement in education that's looking at literacy of all kinds." All kinds? really. Like, illiteracy, or poor literacy. The last time I checked there were no pictures on the SAT.


Fix Me

More and more people are getting "fixed" and I don't mean having their reproductive organs removed, but rather altering their appearances via surgery and sadly more and more of these people are teens.

When we think back on our teenage years, even those of us who felt popular and good looking can relate to feeling self conscious about one or more aspect of our physical appearance. For me the seventh grade was rough. I was chunky, had zits every where,and as icing on the cake, greasy hair in an outdated style. Miraculously, at the beginning of the eighth things changed. My hair had grown during the summer and I was taller and had shed some of my chubbiness by spending a lot of time on the trampoline during the summer. I started wearing makeup and on picture day I wore a pink pirate silky shirt and fluffed my bangs as high as I could get them to go. All day that day I basked in the compliments like a sea elephant in the sun. I was so totally hot.

I recently pulled this picture out to show my teens who burst out laughing.... I was so totally offended. But I suppose they had good reason for their explosion of laughter.The hair was ... Halloween-ish, the makeup, too black, the shirt .. grandma's closet, and the expression.. Barney. Still I looked younger and thinner and my mind enjoyed the trip back in time to when my boobs didn't look like old fruit waiting impatiently to fall off the tree.

Well guess what teens? Now you don't ever have to look back and cringe at old high school photo's. Just make an appointment and get a cute little button nose with tiny nostrils, your ankles liposuctioned, forehead implants, and your toes lengthened for optimal toe cleavage, hey you can even spite your mother by getting your belly button removed( the newest trend in Beverly Hills).

I believe that the humility we learn as we experience teenage awkwardness is imperative to becoming better adults that are more able to handle life's disappointments and maybe even have a good chuckle at our own expense occasionally.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Apsiring to be Average

Meet a parent - any parent - and they have dreams for their children. It may be dreams of world-class athleticism, Ivy League academics, or Julliard bound dancing or music. Parents spend countless hours and money by the truckloads for lessons, practices, private teachers, equipment, and camps to help their children reach their (not sure if it's the kids' or the parents') dreams. My question is, have you ever met anyone who has reached the pinnacle of performance in the area of your child's dreams? If you have, you must ask yourself - is this really what you want your child to be like? My answer is a resounding and heartfelt - "HELL NO!"

For every gold medal athlete or prima ballerina, there are a thousand parents that have their priorities WAY screwed up. Take for example the gold-medalist in a 2002snow-boarding event that thanked his father for calling in sick to work so he could take him to the slopes to practice. In the same Olympics there was a figure skater whose siblings refused to attend any of her events. Apparently they were sick of all the sacrifices the whole family had to make so she could compete. Then there are the brothers in Bethesda, MD, the older of which took 17 AP tests getting 5's on 16 of them, but his little brother was removed from the house by Child Protective Services because of the pressure put on them by their mother.

Reaching the top levels of performance in any field requires a natural ability, hard-work and dedication, an extreme focus to the exculsion of all else, and an overwhleming amount of self-centeredness. Of these, the only attributes I want my children to have is hard work and dedication, but not focused solely on themselves. I want them to work hard to help others and be dedicated to the well-being of the entire family and the community. When you think about which of your children's friends you enjoy most, is it the one with the extreme talent in one area, or is it the one who is helpful, polite, and kind to everyone?

I once overheard my mother reply, when asked how her seven children all turned out so well, that it was because they were all so average. I was indignant that she would think of our academic scholarships and college level athletics and dance to be "average". But as I see parents today run themselves into the ground as they mold and sculpt their future superstar children who, more often then not, end up self-important and spoiled, or burnt-out and resentful, I hope more and more, like my mother, that my children end up being happy, balanced, self-aware, helpful, thoughtful, and dare I say, average.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Alaska: Land of the insane

Ah.. spring is in the air. tulips are blooming, birds are singing, the sun is shining, and you are probably putting your kids shorts on and trying to button your own from last year. yesterday I woke up and looked out my window as I do every morning to check the melting progress and was not very shocked to see 2 feet of freshly fallen snow !!! It is May 1st. We put on our boots and went to school and work ( in Alaska NOTHING is canceled due to snow ... ever). It was a grim day. Kids cried. We adults sighed in our bathroom mirrors at the pale, bloated faces with gaunt eyes, staring back at us. If you ever bumped into a traveling Alaskan in the winter you know what I'm talking about, and you can probably spot us in a crowd. We are the the night of the living dead basically... with like 30 extra pounds of insulation.

Alaska is an interesting place with an interesting climate. If you have never experienced a full year in Alaska here's the low down.

Spring: What month is spring? Here it is May ... 30.... ish. People become insane, toppling over each other in a mad rush to buy plants and quickly plant gardens before the two week planting time frame expires. If you fail, your growth season will be too short and your carrots that you harvest in September will be the size of fingernails.

Summer: June and July maybe... if your lucky. The insanity continues as spirits soar and people try to make the best of the short window of warmth. The sum stays out until around 2 am at which time lawnmowers can be heard as well as children playing out in the streets.Every one is so happy and pleasant,with their unrested smiles pasted on and their forced laughter. Have you ever seen Stepford wives? Like that.

Fall: In every way. You would think someone had died. It is the saddest thing when summer ends and we feel it deeply. have you ever seen the scene in Mary Poppins when Mary Poppins and the children have to leave Uncle Albert's floating tea party ? Like that.Fall begins anytime between August first and August 31st. The leaves fall and then the snow follows promptly.. like the next day.

Winter: We almost always have snow by Halloween ( which is a joke) "cute costume sweetie! are you a skier"?. The season begins sometime in October and continues on until mid May ( happy Easter !)Sunlight becomes sparse and in December you can expect sunrise at 11 and sunset at 3 pm. In other words, if you blink you could miss it. Moods begin to dive and all over Alaska, pharmacies experience shortages of Prozak. People become desperate for anything to make them feel like they did in the summer( I choose food)and by February people start snapping like frozen twigs.

We Alaskans have great pride in our state and many here would rather die than leave. I myself am a fourth generation Alaskan and am bound by some unseen force to this strange and hostile place... that and my grandmother repeatedly tells me that all people who move down to the lower 48 die soon after. So the question is do I want to die warm?

Welcome to the Kingdom of Hawaii

Yesterday, unbeknownst to my unaware self, I actually "left" the United States and resided briefly in the "Kingdom of Hawaii". Apparently this is a common thing here in the fiftieth state. For a few hours yesterday, citizens of the "Kingdom of Hawaii" stormed the palace gates locked themselves in and wouldn't admit anyone of non-Hawaiian blood. They declared themselves the "legitimate government of the Hawaiian Islands". Being a law-abiding citizen, I tried to apply for a visa, but they disbanded peacefully at 4:00pm but vowed to return today at 8:00am. Well, how d'you like that, a government that takes nights and weekends off.

Revolutions are as timeless as climate change, cockroaches, and whining. When a group of people gets sick of whoever's in charge, they grab their torches and pitchforks and run them off and put themselves in charge until the next group of people gets sick of them. The United States implemented term limits for its leaders, who are chosen by those who are led, to reduce farm-tool related injuries. Most revolutions involve overthrowing a monarchy to establish a democracy. Apparently here in Hawaii, they're trying to do the opposite.

My favorite part of this all, the royal rebels put "No Trespassing" signs on all the gates that were bought from The Home Depot! At least they're open to foreign trade. So if you have a vacation to the islands planned, bring your passport, just in case. Of course, if it happens to be the Kingdom of Hawaii when you get here and they won't let you in because of your race, just wait a few hours. The Monarchy will probably take a break to get dinner at Costco.